The Game of Love & Death: Hoovervilles

Posted May 22, 2015 by Sara | Novel Novice 1 Comment

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Some significant scenes in The Game of Love & Death take place in one of Seattle’s largest Hoovervilles — shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Today, we explore a little more about these encampments.

Why Hooverville?

herbert hooverThe shanty towns that arose during the Great Depression were called “Hoovervilles” after President Herbert Hoover, who was in office when the Great Depression hit and was largely blamed for the economic downturn.

There’s a great little ditty from the original Broadway musical version of “Annie,” in which citizens of an NYC Hooverville sing about “thanking” Herbert Hoover:

Hoovervilles weren’t the only thing named for the President during this time. Here are a few other gems:

  • “Hoover Blanket” – newspapers used for blankets
  • “Hoover Flag” – an empty pocket turned inside out
  • “Hoover Leather” – cardboard used to line a shoe with worn soles
  • “Hoover Wagon” – a car with horses hitched to it because the driver couldn’t afford fuel

Nationwide Locations

hooverville shacksAt the peak of the Great Depression, there were hundreds of Hoovervilles across the United States, which were home to thousands of men and women.

The Hoovervilles arose when demand for municipal housing for homeless people surpassed their capacity due to the rapidly rising numbers of homeless and jobless individuals. Most Hoovervilles popped up near soup kitchens and other places where food could be found.

The Hoovervilles were eventually dismantled thanks to “shanty eradication” programs following the economic recovery in the 1940s.

 Washington State Hoovervilles

Washington state had one of the largest numbers of Hoovervilles in the United States. Seattle, alone, boasted eight of them — including one of the single largest Hoovervilles in the country, located adjacent to the Port of Seattle.

The Game of Love & Death takes place in Seattle in 1937, when this photo of a Hooverville near the shipyards was taken:

Seattle Hooverville circa 1937

Sara | Novel Novice
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